Professional Issues in Therapeutic Provision for Children and Young People. By Bianca Benoit Patterson.


My workplace is a small, inner-city mainstream primary school within a very diverse community. My role as a Learning Support Assistant in the Reception year group, aged 4-5 years, encompasses working alongside the teacher in providing a safe, stimulating, play-based learning environment. It also involves ensuring every child is given the opportunity to meet their Early Learning Goals (ELGs) in all 7 areas of development; 3 prime areas: Communication and Language, Physical, Personal Social and Emotional. And 4 specific areas: Mathematics, Literacy, Understanding the World and Expressive Arts and Design (see appendix 1). An ELG is an age-related expectation target set by the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum, that every child ‘should’ reach before they move onto Key Stage 1. It is guidance ‘to be used as a tool to assess the extent to which a young child is developing at expected levels for their age’, Department for Education (2015). For various reasons, not all children reach their ELG in all areas, each child is unique, and their pace and stage of development may vary to another and their chronological age, Parten (1932). However, it is our responsibility as practitioners to ensure that the provision and adult input provided is creative and challenging to encourage progression towards the goals. We assess the children’s progress by collecting individual, written observations of the learning during their Busy Time (free-play) which happens for 2 hours each day, and any work completed during adult-led carpet time. For example, if a child who was frequently writing ‘tricky’ or ‘high-frequency’ words during their play then proceeded to writing a sentence, that would be progress towards their Literacy ELG and thus would be written as an observation. These observations are uploaded onto online learning diaries which the parents have access to and are used as evidence of learning.


This assignment is written as piece of action research and focuses on an issue I had in my workplace. It analyses and evaluates the interventions I put in place to tackle the issue.

Child A is 60 months old (5 years), he attends Reception daily and when beginning this study, I had a neutral relationship with him, whereby we had not had many interactions, good or bad. From the beginning of the school year in September 2019, it was clear Child A was not engaging with his peers or the environment. Observing this was concerning for myself and my colleagues, not only because it meant Child A may not reach his ELGs in some areas – our assessments were minimal and showed he was below his age-related expectation in all areas – but because the behaviour was worrying. In the classroom, Child A was quiet, passive and disengaged, observing from a distance and unmotivated to explore. The Children Act (2004) states we as professionals have a duty of care to all children and within that duty is to be alert to behaviours that may be a cause for concern. ‘Becoming withdrawn…anxious… (and) lacking social skills’ are ‘common signs that there may be something concerning happening in a child’s life’, NSPCC (2020). This information is provided in the safeguarding training we receive annually in school and warns us that a lack of engagement is a potential safeguarding matter. Therefore, we followed our setting’s safeguarding policy and closely monitored and logged the behaviour while reporting it to the Designated Safeguarding Lead.

As far as we could see, Child A has a secure attachment to his mother as he became very distressed in her absence when he began school in September, Bowlby (2012) p3. According to Golding (2008) a secure attachment is when the mother is ‘sensitive and responsive to (his) emotional needs’ from birth, leading to a strong, positive bond between child and care giver, p232. Typically, when a child has a secure attachment to their caregiver, when they feel safe, the attachment systems will cease being so intense and the child can become ‘motivated to explore’, p32. Unfortunately, although the distress in her absence was short lived and Child A settled quicker each time his mother dropped him off, we did not see any motivation to explore. In addition to this, we had witnessed very different behaviour during play time when he was out with his siblings; play-fighting, laughing and running. Child A’s contrasting behaviour in school to and around his family had me questioning the cause of the behaviour, more importantly, what could I do as a professional to help improve his engagement?



Discussing the issue with my colleagues, we used our knowledge of Child A and the routine of the day to create interventions that we could realistically put in place to improve his engagement with his peers and environment. To do this we had to utilise what we already had: play. I think it is correct to declare the importance of play by quoting the legislation which protects it; all children hold the right to ‘engage in play and recreational activities’, United Nations (1989). Additionally, many agree that children use play to work through their anxieties, Russ and Short (2011). Moreover, The EYFS states that play is the foundation of all learning and development and through play, ‘children develop language skills, their emotions, creativity and social and intellectual skills’. The curriculum aims for children to be fully equipped with the appropriate tools they will need not only for their remaining years in education, but also for life, Early Years Matters (2019).

Finally, Perry (2006) explains that it is through an ‘increase in number and quality’ of relationships, ‘being around people who respect them…tolerate their vulnerabilities and weaknesses’ and who are ‘patient in helping them slowly build new skills’ that children can ‘feel like they belong’, p232. Furthermore, play and nurturing relationships can ‘buffer against toxic stress and build social-emotional resilience’, AAP (2018). McMahon (1992) continues to explain that while relaxed, informal play can ‘support a developing relationship between child and worker’, p72, this relationship can then act as a means of containment for a child, p16. Greenhalgh (1994) describes holding and containment as ‘the process of holding disturbing feelings which are inhibiting emotional growth…demonstrating they can be tolerated’, p107. Using this knowledge to guide us, my colleagues and I all agreed that the issue could most likely be tackled through Child A being given more opportunities for play and interactions. Therefore, the question I chose to lead the research project is:

What happens when additional focus is given to Child A’s lack of engagement in the classroom through increased opportunities for play and interactions?

Before beginning the research, there were some ‘legal boundaries’ that we had to consider, Bell and Waters (2018) p77. For example, the General Data Protection Regulation (2018) governs how we publish the data to ensure the child cannot be identified through the research for privacy reasons. Therefore, I have referred to the children without using their real names. In addition, the Equality Act (2010) ensures that although we can take language, sex, disability, race, religion and age into consideration, we cannot discriminate against the child for any of these factors.

From our knowledge of Child A, we knew that he wouldn’t automatically be encouraged or inspired to join in more, simply by us providing more activities for him. Therefore, we decided to utilise the good relationship Child A has with his older sister (Child M) and invite her into Busy Time. To minimise the impact on her learning, Child M could be removed from her classroom for half an hour a week for 6 weeks. She was in Reception last year and is confident and settled with the staff and the environment. We hoped she would be perfect in demonstrating to Child A that there is not anything to be afraid of and entice him into becoming engaged in some of the provision and activities available. However, we felt this intervention would be too infrequent and may not have the desired effect. So, we also chose a small group of friendly, quiet children who were settled in Reception, that I could play ‘back to basics’ games with once a week with Child A, that require minimal communication. For example, rolling a ball to one-another in a circle. This was in the hope that Child A would begin to make connections with his peers and a confidence would grow with a new friendship. Unfortunately, due to a full routine and an already stretched number of staff, there was never enough time in the day to do this intervention. My leaving the classroom would have been either disruptive or detrimental to the teacher and the other children’s learning. This led me to adapt and improvise, trying to encourage Child A towards the chosen children during Busy Time, wondering aloud what they were doing and offering cues for Child A to join in their play. Moreover, each day throughout the 6 weeks, I ‘checked in’ on Child A in the morning and after lunch – trying to engage him in conversation, asking what he would like to do and steering him towards children who were already engaged in an activity.


When possible, I was present during the interventions and interactions so I could observe any change in Child A’s engagement. I also collected and wrote down the professional opinions of my colleagues about Child A’s needs and what might help him. These observations are defined as qualitative data – non-numerical and not easily measured, Cambridge Dictionary (2020). This form of data is useful in this circumstance because it can ‘provide you with details about human behaviour (and) emotion’, UX Matters (2020). However, although this collection of data is very informative, unfortunately it may give a subjective or bias opinion of what happened.

Not only were we interested in what we could do to improve Child A’s engagement, we also wanted to see if we could investigate a cause, which may help in planning how to support him. Nurture UK (n.d) tells us that lack of engagement in a child may be a sign a child has Social, Emotional, Mental Health (SEMH) needs. Because of this, I completed Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaires (SDQ) with the teacher about Child A at the beginning and end of the 6 weeks – Appendix 3. This is an ‘emotional and behavioural screening questionnaire’ for 3-16 year old children often used to determine where the SEMH needs lie, Child Outcomes Research Consortium (2019). It compromises of questions with categories including: Emotional Symptoms, Conduct Problems, Hyperactivity/Inattention, Peer Relationship Problem and Prosocial Behaviour. Each question is answered by checking ‘not true’, ‘somewhat true’ or ‘certainly true’, and that answer is given the score 1,2 or 3. When completed, you add up the scores for each category and classify them as ‘normal’, ‘borderline’ or ‘abnormal’ by using the bandings provided. For example, a total score between 0-11 is considered ‘normal’, 12-15 is ‘borderline’ and 16-40 is ‘abnormal’. Depending on your setting’s policy, you can decide how to use the information to support the child. In my setting, an intervention is put in place depending on that child individually, the contextual factors and the category of the score. For example, if a Reception child scored borderline or abnormal in Peer Relationships, we wouldn’t necessarily put an intervention in place as they are new to the school and there may not have been sufficient time for those relationships to form. Bearing this in mind, we can establish how best to support the child and whether the intervention put in place is suitable for their needs.

The data from SDQs is quantitative, this is ‘information that can be shown in numbers’, Cambridge Dictionary (2020). Although the data is numerical, it is also measuring details about human behaviour and emotion, and I found it was a clearer and faster way of seeing obvious change over time. However, SDQs are subject to some criticism because they cannot be used for everyone, for example, children with severe learning difficulties, Law and Wolpert (2014). Furthermore, the bandings do not take into consideration contextual factors such as social demographic, language barriers and developmental age of the child. Additionally, I was curious to know if the number of assessment observations being inputted by Reception staff would be affected by the interventions, and whether this would show Child A progressing toward his ELG in Personal, Social and Emotional development.

My hope is that this data, when looked at collectively, will show an increase in Child A’s engagement as the interventions take place over 6 weeks, demonstrating that the increased opportunities for play and interactions make a positive impact on his social and emotional development and progress him towards his ELGs.

Variable Factors

When conducting any research, variable factors must be considered, and a researcher must recognise there are factors they have no control over and that ‘no two situations are ever the same’, Taylor, Wilkie and Baser (2006) p81. One factor is Child A’s attendance – he would frequently miss one or two days a week of school, which in turn seemed to reverse any progress we appeared to be making during the time he was there. For example, on a Tuesday, I observed Child A standing closer than usual to a child playing with dinosaurs. Child A bent down, picked up a dinosaur and started to move it around on the table, occasionally glancing over at the other child. As shown in Appendix 1, playing alongside another child is a natural progression from solo play, which is all we had seen from him before the study. Unfortunately, Child A did not attend school for two days after this, meaning when he returned on Friday he resumed standing far away from the other children, refusing to interact. Child M’s attendance was not great either, but fortunately her teacher offered us 4 potential half-hour slots a week for her to join us, so we were able to be flexible. Adult attendance was another implication. There was a week when I was unwell and not in school, this meant Child A was not getting those daily check ins, and, due to her responsibilities, the teacher was unable to ensure she spent much time closely observing Child A. This is mainly due to the rest of the class needing the attention of the teacher, and the supply who was covering me did not have the relationship or the knowledge needed to either lead the class or observe Child A.

When Child A began Reception, we were made aware that he had not attended nursery or pre-school and had never spent time away from his mother. Although it is impossible to say for certain, this may mean Child A has not had the opportunities to develop multiple attachments. Research conducted by Schaffer and Emerson (1964) shows us that this is when a child becomes more independent from the mother and typically develops them in the ‘third quarter of the first year’ of life (7-9months). If Child A has not experienced developing attachments to people other than his immediate caregiver, it could affect his ability to engage in new relationships, which would in turn affect the impact of the intervention.

Other educational priorities, such as the Nativity play, drastically reduced the interactions and opportunities to play as for the last 2 weeks we frequently rehearsed instead of having Busy Time. Furthermore, although allowed to join in rehearsals, Child A’s parents had opted him out of performing in the play because of religious reasons. This may have impacted on how engaged he was with the rehearsals as it was unlikely anyone was talking to him about the play at home, let alone practising song lyrics.

It is also important to consider that although we provide therapeutic provision, my setting is not a therapeutic setting and does not, therefore, have all the resources available to it which could aid to the study. For example, a higher number of staff and a slower, more flexible schedule. Leitch and Day (2000) discuss how so much is expected of teachers (in mainstream schools) and that they are pushed into fixing problems ‘the sources of which are manifestly outside of their making’. Unfortunately, this puts limitations on what we can realistically achieve.

Finally, English is not Child A’s first language and his English, from what we know, is limited. ‘Social interaction with peers can be a particular difficulty’ for Reception children. The ‘ability to interact with others’ and ‘the understanding of the shared cultural framework’ is essential to being able to ‘successfully engage in activities and interact with peers’, NALDIC (2015). Limited English may be a huge barrier to how Child A responds to the interventions.


At the end of the 6 weeks, I gathered all the data I had collected to look at the findings. First, the quantitative data:

The data from the SDQs is very interesting – Child A’s behaviour as a whole is classed as more ‘abnormal’ than before the interventions were put in place. But this does not necessarily mean that the interventions were not successful. When looking more closely at the data, you can see that the reason for this change was because of an increase in the Conduct and Hyperactivity categories. More specifically, before the interventions, it was ‘certainly true’ that Child A was ‘generally obedient, (and) usually does what adults request’ of him. After the interventions, this had changed to ‘somewhat true’. When considering Child A’s age, you would expect a certain degree of misconduct – having tantrums, arguing with other children, not listening to adults – and a level of hyperactivity – cannot stay still for a long time, fidgeting etc. What was concerning was that Child A’s behaviour was without these common attributes of his age. That he was not displaying them was an example of his lack of engagement. Therefore, an increased score in these categories could be Child A becoming more aware of his peers around him, copying their behaviours. It could also mean that he has become more relaxed and settled and has ‘let his guard down’. Imitating the people around them is perfectly natural and healthy and helps to ‘shape…personality’, Facts for Life (2010). This suggests the change is positive, however, it must be considered that an increase in these categories could suggest an increase in SEMH needs, GL Assessment (2018). Although, I would not consider these changes ‘drastic’ enough.

Furthermore, when considering what might be causing Child A’s behaviour, according to the SDQ data, the problems lie in the Peer Problem and Prosocial Behaviour categories. This is comparable to what we originally thought and shows we were right to choose interventions that encouraged Child A to interact with his peers and practice prosocial behaviours. These are ‘actions… for the sole purpose of helping others, without expectation of reward’, Alcock and Sadava (2014) p610. The fact neither scores decreased – they have stayed the same – indicates the interventions were unsuccessful. However, the qualitative data suggests otherwise.

The observations I took of Child A over the 6 weeks give a clear image of Child A’s level of engagement in the classroom and how it changed over time. At the beginning, the observations of Child A demonstrate how disengaged he was. I have dated them to ensure clarity on timeline:

  • “He stood alone watching the children play on the equipment.” 12.11.19
  • “He stood in the rain getting soaked, ignoring the adults’ suggestions to come under the cover.” 14.11.19

When Child M arrived for her first visit, Child A was “very pleased!” and although reluctant to choose where they should play, he followed her lead “dragging his feet but smiling” 14.11.19. It was obvious during the first couple of visits that this was a strange and new experience to Child A, yet he gradually became more engaged with his peers and environment. For example, Child M led him over to the water play, explaining that he liked fish, so I handed him the tray of toy fish and he “took a handful and put them in the water”, physically responding to my offer which I had not seen before. They played together alongside other children at the waterplay until it was time for Child M to go. Fortunately, Child A did not become upset with her leaving and even continued to play at the waterplay alongside the other children for a further 5 minutes before looking around and “floating slowly back towards where I had moved to”. I purposefully did not engage with him to see what he would do, and he soon left my side and walked over to a box of Duplo on the floor and knelt down. I had “never seen him initiate and choose his own play before”.

Further signs of Child A becoming more engaged in the classroom followed as the weeks went on, without Child M’s presence:

  • “Put hand up on carpet to answer question (one-word answer)” 15.11.19
  • “Chose painting in Busy Time.” 19.11.19
  • “Joined other children on the carpet and copied their play in filling and emptying bowls of beads.” 27.11.19
  • “Joined in with exploring sounds of instruments with other children.” 27.11.19

This behaviour was enhanced by Child M visiting. For example, on 28.11.19, Child M arrived, and Child A went straight to the instruments, “keen to show her what he had enjoyed playing with the day before.” Child A instantly became more engaged with his peers and environment as soon as she arrived, an affect that seemed to last for a short while even after she had gone. Observations from early December show Child A engaging in a game with me and another child “rolling a hoop back and forth”. He “watched at first and kept one hand in his pocket but was quick to retrieve the hoop when it came towards him and rolled it back” 5.12.19. Child A’s talking interactions also increased. For example, I commented on his new haircut and “he smiled, pointed to his hair and said ‘mum’” 5.12.19.

A majority of the observations demonstrate a clear boost in Child A’s engagement in the classroom. However, we saw a regression towards the end of the 6 weeks as rehearsals for the nativity play began and the routine of the day was significantly affected. This also meant Child M was unable to visit for one week as we could not find the time in the schedule. I noted the teacher’s voice: “It’s like he’s just gotten used to Busy Time and now he’s been thrown into something completely new!” My role was to organise the music and PA system, thus I was unable to interact with him in during rehearsals. From when rehearsals began, the observations evidence Child A struggling with the change:

  • “Unable to sit properly.” 9.12.19
  • “Ignoring instructions to help tidy.” 10.12.19
  • “Other children joined Child A and he backed away from his activity.” 11.12.19
  • “Floating or standing still for long periods of time watching the children.” 13.12.19

Child A did not attend the final week of term before the winter break, so I was unable to gather any data for week 6.

Finally, when considering Appendix 2, you can see Child A’s assessment data evidences progress in the 3 prime areas of development. His increased engagement in the classroom over the weeks caused a rise in opportunities for Reception staff to record progress in his learning. This led to Child A progressing towards a level of development that is more typical of his age.


Although there were minor increases in undesired behaviour and Child A did not seem to develop any specific relationships with his peers, overall, the data showed that during the 6 weeks of intervention, Child A became more engaged with his peers and the environment. However, Child A is not yet independently engaging with his peers and the environment, so further adult support in encouraging peer interactions and participation in available activities is needed.

The data does not give us a clear indication as to what exactly the cause of improvement was, there are many factors to consider:

  • Child M’s visits that gave Child A the confidence to explore the environment and ‘come out of his shell’.
  • Increased interactions with an adult – more 1:1 time.
  • Increased encouraged interactions with peers.
  • Time – Child A had a further 6 weeks in the Reception environment.

In my professional opinion, it was not only a combination of all these factors that led to Child A becoming more engaged, but, contrary to what we originally thought would be affective, I believe it was my developing relationship with him that was the overriding influencer. Some research suggests that the relationship between therapist and patient can be more important than the therapy itself. Many studies have been conducted on this relationship, with some researchers, like Greenson (1965), calling it the ‘working alliance’, focusing on the collaboration that takes place. Others have put emphasis on the essentialness of the negotiation between therapist and patient, Muran and Safran (1998) p9. Whereas some place the importance on the emotional bond formed between the two people, Bordin (1979). Bordin (1979) also states that this bond ‘can occur in many places’ including ‘the relationship between student and teacher’. The cruciality of affection and friendliness in the working alliance was first acknowledged by Freud (1912) and named the ‘vehicle of success in psychoanalysis’, p7. This confirms to me my thoughts that when a child is struggling and not achieving their full potential, without warmth and attentiveness to them, positive change is not possible. Throughout the study, Child A was always happy to be close to me, gravitating towards me when unoccupied and rarely making a move to engage in an activity or another child without my presence. As mentioned before, it is unlikely Child A has had the opportunity to build an attachment with an adult outside of his family before starting school. Was I acting as a bridge to his peers and the environment? On reflection of this and my relationship with Child A, I noticed I had some maternal feelings for him; I felt protective and a deep sense of sadness when he did not make progress. Therefore, transference must be considered as an influencing factor in the study. This is the ‘projection of feelings… based on the child’s previous experience of significant figures in their lives’, and the process I went through during reflection to arrive at this awareness is ‘counter-transference’, McMahon and Ward (1998) p34. Because of how Child A responded to the additional attention he received from me, and the supposed secure attachment he has with his mother, this could mean that he was transferring his feelings for his relationship with his mother onto me. As he has only ever been under her care, was it her absence which was causing his disconnectedness and was he trying to connect through me? On the other hand, it could be that the maternal feelings I had were not from him, but because I was pregnant during the study, therefore naturally feeling maternal about the children in my care. However, as these feelings and processes are unconscious, they are impossible to measure and therefore the answer remains purely subjective, Searle (1994) pp151-173.

A final reflection on the influencers on the data and outcome of the interventions; how much of my wanting the interventions to work affected the data? Although I set myself the task of recording any change to the engagement, I must consider if I was more inclined to record the progress I witnessed, rather than the regression, as that is what I wanted to see. This is one among the things I would be aware of; should I carry out the study again. Others include:

  • Ensuring the study took place during a time that other educational priorities were not going to dominate the adults’ time like the Nativity play did.
  • Not relying on an individual student to assist a child who is not engaging in their classroom unless you can be flexible with routine. Their absence could mean an intervention cannot go ahead which can impact negatively on the child and on your research and lead to you having to improvise which may not be consistent. Instead, I would ensure you have a selection of 3 or 4 children you can use.
  • Ensuring the intervention is not solely reliant on one adult, date and time. Allow room for flexibility in case of sickness or that adult needing to be elsewhere. Ensure another adult can step in.
  • Completing an SDQ and analyse the data before deciding on what interventions to put in place. This is because I now see it offers a potential cause for the behaviours being portrayed, providing an opportunity to better prepare for a more affective intervention.

With further regard to the data, I found using qualitative data to record change was very informative and reading back through the observations gives a clear image of Child A and how the interventions impacted on his engagement. However, as mentioned prior, the observations may be biased and therefore unreliable. Also, due to the fast pace of the job, most observations were written in hindsight so one must be aware that the memory could have altered over time by the researcher’s bias view. Alternatively, the quantitative data shined a different light on the study, highlighting the causes and revealing changes in Child A’s behaviour that I may not have noticed had I only used written observations to monitor change. With regards to further study, I would repeat using a combination of the two because it provides a broad variety of data, revealing angles you had not looked at from before. However, this would depend on the hypothesis and how specific it is. For example, a question including ‘how much/many…?’ would probably require the use of quantitative data.

The findings of my research could positively affect future practice in several ways. Firstly, I propose that as a team, the Reception staff should complete an SDQ for a child who shows signs of disengagement when they begin school. This way, they could spot signs of the possible causes of the behaviour early and put things in place to support that child. Secondly, for those children who have little experience of being away from their primary caregiver, I would suggest encouraging small interactions with a select group of children, modelling language and scaffolding play so that the child may learn how to interact socially through you. The adult’s role in this should continue until it is evident the child can continue independently and no longer relies on adult support. For my future practice, I will think about my relationship with the child before anything else. Had my relationship with Child A been unhealthy to begin with, the results of the study may vary. Before conducting any study with a child, the adult orchestrating it must first develop trust and good communication with the child, because it is on the basis of these elements that the child will feel safe and secure enough to branch out and experience the change with you, The Communication Trust (2020).

Perhaps if the variable factors did not exist then the outcome would have been quite different! For instance, what would be different if:

  • Child A and M’s attendance was 100%.
  • I was not sick.
  • The daily routine was not so inflexible.
  • There were no other educational priorities to focus on.
  • English was Child A’s first language.
  • Child A had the prosocial skills and abilities to form new attachments more easily.

My belief is that all these factors acted as barriers to Child A’s progress in the study. And there is a possibility that if his attendance was better throughout the year, he had experience in forming new attachments prior to starting school and his English was stronger, Child A may not have needed these interventions at all. Unfortunately, there will be variable factors in every study as they are unavoidable. One must adapt their practice in a way to best answer their hypothesis.


To conclude, the data, although contrasting, revealed Child A’s engagement improved when additional focus was given to his lack of engagement through increased opportunities for play and interactions. It also showed new potentials for causes of the concerning behaviour and evidenced the change in Child A’s engagement throughout the 6 weeks. However, further support will need to continue.

Depending on the child and their relationship to the researcher, a similar intervention could be put in place for comparable reasons, and the research conducted here could be used to better practice within my setting, with reasonable adjustments made. However, no matter what you put in place, the most influential element will be the relationship between you and the child.

Word count: 5452

Appendix 1

This table shows the age-related expectations of children aged 16-60+ months in their Personal, Social and Emotional Development which we use to guide our assessment in the EYFS curriculum, Early Education (2012).

Personal, Social and Emotional Development

Age Making Relationships Self-confidence and Self-awareness Managing Feelings and Behaviour
16-26 months •Plays alongside others.

•Uses a familiar adult as a secure base from which to explore independently in new environments, e.g. ventures away to play and interact with others, but returns for a cuddle or reassurance if becomes anxious. •Plays cooperatively with a familiar adult, e.g. rolling a ball back and forth.

• Explores new toys and environments, but ‘checks in’ regularly with familiar adult as and when needed.

• Gradually able to engage in pretend play with toys (supports child to understand their own thinking may be different from others).

• Demonstrates sense of self as an individual, e.g. wants to do things independently, says “No” to adult.

• Is aware of others’ feelings, for example, looks concerned if hears crying or looks excited if hears a familiar happy voice.

• Growing sense of will and determination may result in feelings of anger and frustration which are difficult to handle, e.g. may have tantrums.

• Responds to a few appropriate boundaries, with encouragement and support.

• Begins to learn that some things are theirs, some things are shared, and some things belong to other people.

22-36 months • Interested in others’ play and starting to join in.

•Seeks out others to share experiences. •Shows affection and concern for people who are special to them.

•May form a special friendship with another child.

•Separates from main carer with support and encouragement from a familiar adult.

•Expresses own preferences and interests

•Seeks comfort from familiar adults when needed. •Can express their own feelings such as sad, happy, cross, scared, worried. •Responds to the feelings and wishes of others.

•Aware that some actions can hurt or harm others.

•Tries to help or give comfort when others are distressed. •Shows understanding and cooperates with some boundaries and routines.

•Can inhibit own actions/behaviours, e.g. stop themselves from doing something they shouldn’t do. •Growing ability to distract self when upset, e.g. by engaging in a new play activity

30-50 months •Can play in a group, extending and elaborating play ideas, e.g. building up a role-play activity with other children.

• Initiates play, offering cues to peers to join them.

•Keeps play going by responding to what others are saying or doing.

•Demonstrates friendly behaviour, initiating conversations and forming good relationships with peers and familiar adults.

•Can select and use activities and resources with help.

•Welcomes and values praise for what they have done.

•Enjoys responsibility of carrying out small tasks.

• Is more outgoing towards unfamiliar people and more confident in new social situations. •Confident to talk to other children when playing and will communicate freely about own home and community.

•Shows confidence in asking adults for help.

•Aware of own feelings and knows that some actions and words can hurt others’ feelings.

•Begins to accept the needs of others and can take turns and share resources, sometimes with support from others.

•Can usually tolerate delay when needs are not immediately met and understands wishes may not always be met.

•Can usually adapt behaviour to different events, social situations and changes in routine.

40-60+ months • Initiates conversations, attends to and takes account of what others say. •Explains own knowledge and understanding and asks appropriate questions of others.

•Takes steps to resolve conflicts with other children, e.g. finding a compromise.

• Confident to speak to others about own needs, wants, interests and opinions.

• Can describe self in positive terms and talk about abilities.

•Understands that own actions affect other people, for example, becomes upset or tries to comfort another child when they realise they have upset them. •Aware of the boundaries set, and of behavioural expectations in the setting.

•Beginning to be able to negotiate and solve problems without aggression, e.g. when someone has taken their toy.

Early Learning Goal Children play co-operatively, taking turns with others. They take account of one another’s ideas about how to organise their activity. They show sensitivity to others’ needs and feelings and form positive relationships with adults and other children. Children are confident to try new activities and say why they like some activities more than others. They are confident to speak in a familiar group, will talk about their ideas, and will choose the resources they need for their chosen activities. They say when they do or don’t need help. Children talk about how they and others show feelings, talk about their own and others’ behaviour, and its consequences, and know that some behaviour is unacceptable. They work as part of a group or class and understand and follow the rules. They adjust their behaviour to different situations and take changes of routine in their stride.





Appendix 2

Child A’s assessment data in prime areas of development before and after intervention

Category Sub-category Before intervention (months) After intervention


Communication and Language Listening and Attention 22-36  [E]


30-50  [E]


Understanding 16-26  [D]


16-26  [S]


Speaking 16-26  [E]


16-26  [D]


Physical Development Moving and Handling 22-36  [D]


22-36  [D]


Health and Self-care 22-36  [D]


22-36  [S]


Personal Social and Emotional Development Self-confidence and Self-awareness 22-36  [E]


22-36  [S]


Managing Feelings and Behaviour 22-36  [S]


30-50  [E]


Making Relationships 16-26  [S]


16-26  [S]


[E] = emerging        [D] = developing      [S] = secure

*Assessment observations inputted, but no progress made*


Appendix 3 – Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) – Please see other document attached. Youth in Mind (2020).


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Youth in Mind (2020) Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. Available from: [Accessed 04 May 2020].



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